Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Covenant of Redemption - Introduction

“Alright everyone that’s enough group time, let’s come back together and conclude our teacher training seminar.”
The noisy room immediately fell silent.
“Oh wow, that was fast. Uh, okay, well as you can see we only have a few minutes left on the clock, and for the remainder of the time I’d like to combine the best ideas from each group into one big take away. I’m sure you all did a great job on your analysis of Psalms 1, and I’ve got a marker here to write down what’s said, so go ahead, whenever you’re ready.”

There was a brief silence for the sake of politeness, then the groups began to shout out their observations:
“We discussed how we’re blessed when we avoid evil.”

“We noticed the progression of sin. Don’t walk, don’t sit, don’t be around it.”
“We noticed that the wicked will be blown away like chaff, while the righteous have weight about them and will endure. It was an encouragement for us to be strong during our trials.”
“We noticed that God compares us to a strong, continually watered tree.”

The instructor dutifully transferred the comments to the white-board until the clock showed 3:58, at which point everyone fell silent to signal to him it was time to wrap up. (Being teachers ourselves we already knew how to manage the clock.)
“Anything else?”
His tone indicated the question was more of a formality than a genuine request for information.
A quick backward glance showed it was a college student who had no respect for the unwritten rules of seminar time management.
“Go ahead young man.”
“Where is Christ in this?”
The instructor frowned, “I’m not sure I understand you.”
“What I mean is,” came the clarification, “isn’t the Bible about Christ? Any Jew or Muslim would have said what we just said. They think we need to obey God to receive blessings. But where is Christ? Why haven’t we tried to find Him here? Isn’t Christ what makes us Christians?”
Realizing what he was driving at the instructor raised his voice. “Not everything is about Jesus young man. He’s not hiding behind every rock or tree, or verse or story. What’s important is that we take these truths and put them to use—that’s what matters. That’s what the text here indicates, and as you’ll notice, that’s what everyone else realized as well.”
He paused briefly to consider if his off the cuff response was sufficient, and deciding it was, adopted a more business-like tone to address the rest of the class. “Well thank you for coming, we’re out of time now, but the next session is in three months and we’ll have more time then. Enjoy the rest of your day, I’ll send out a reminder email in a couple of weeks to follow up with you.”

And just like that the event lurched to an unsatisfactory end.

I walked to my car sullenly, taking the rebuke personally. As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. Developing our ideas by asking the question, “What does this mean to me?” when we should have been asking, “What does this teach me about Jesus?” caused us to overlook the more excellent way.

The longer I thought about it, the obvious my mistake became. If I were asked, “How would you get your bearings in an initially unfamiliar place?” would I have answered, “look around for something familiar”? Not a chance. I’d have said, “Turn on a GPS and look at the map,” because doing so gives me a reliable, objective source of information that can become the basis for my subjective understanding. In other words the objective method imparts knowledge, the subjective uses it.

Despite the fact that the objective approach is clearly the superior way to handle the Scriptures the vast majority of sermons are constructed in the subjective fashion. Last week I listened to the radio ministries of David Jeremiah, Chuck Swindoll, and Robert Jeffers as they drew critical and essential life lessons from the book of Nehemiah. Each in their own way discussed how a Christian should expect resistance from godlessness, how good project management can be helpful in all areas of life, and how if God helps us we can overcome adversity, no matter how formidable. All good things. All true things. But like the Greeks who came to Philip in John 12:21, my heart cried out while listening to these sermons, “Sir, I would see Jesus.”

It may be unfair to say, but I don’t think the disciples who walked the Emmaus road would’ve turned to each other and said, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?” if the topic was “Encouraging lessons from the Old Testament.” I suspect the reason their hearts came alive was because Christ “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 22:27).

Because the fact is, I’m sick of practical tips and good advice. As an immoral sinner I’m desperate for a sovereign savior, not an upbeat life coach, and the thought of hearing another pep-talk from the pulpit makes me want to write a letter to the preacher that says, “Dear pastor, tell me less of what I need to do and more of what Christ has done for me. He must increase and I must decrease. ”

I say all that by way of introduction in order to say this: what you’re reading is a book on how the covenants in the Bible are principally objective, Christocentric revelations. Noah learned that the Christ would be a savior. Abraham learned He’d be a king. Moses learned He’d be a prophet. Israel learned in the New Covenant that He’d be a priest. The New Testament book of Hebrews is written to show us how Christ is the better promised mediator, priest, and prophet, the missing piece of redemptive history. The covenants in the Bible are not given so that we could have a stronger faith (although they have that effect), better self-actualization, or higher self-esteem, but so that we could know God.  Which was His plan from the beginning.

No comments: